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January 27, 2022

Behind the circus screen – take a look this Friday

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Photo Hamish McCormick.
Photo Hamish McCormick.

Not everyone finds their purpose in life at the age of 14 through their work experience week – but that is what happened for local ex-circus performer and cinematographer Hamish McCormick.

‘He came home and said “I’ve found my people and they’ve accepted me”,’ said his Dad, renowned local photographer, John McCormick.

The Rock ’n’ Roll circus group in Brisbane who he had done work experience with ’were a group of young people who were really pushing it – they were covered in tattoos and eating fire,’ said Hamish.

Training with Mullumbimby’s home grown circus group, Spaghetti Circus, Hamish threw in school at 17 and took to the circus helping founder, Leonie Mills, as she taught kids the circus skills that would take many of them to Australian and international renown.

‘He knew what he wanted to do – I didn’t when I was that age,’ continued John.

‘What do you need school for when you know what you want to do with your life?’

The strange ways of luck

With the support of his parents Hamish pursued his career as a circus performer travelling both Australia and the world before he broke his arm in 2003.

‘It was a really bad break,’ said John.

‘You can still see the scar that slices into his Chinese good luck tattoo.’

Luck can come in strange ways and if it hadn’t been for that break Hamish may never have picked up a camera discovered his future passion.

’I picked up a camera and started making a behind the scenes doco of the sword swallowing Happy Side Show,’ said Hamish with enthusiasm.

‘Once I picked up the camera I realised that documenting this community was a life long project.

‘I got that understanding from Dad and the way he’d documented this community.’

John has photographed the diverse and colourful community in and around the Byron Shire since the early 1980s and was often gracious enough to supply photos to The Echo in the early days of its journey.

Fifteen years on Hamish has thousands of hours of footage of the circus world both in Australia and internationally.

‘I’ve documented the people that are at the forefront of the Australian circus community and many now have big international reputations.

Touring the world

Photo Hamish McCormick.
Photo Hamish McCormick.

‘They tour nine months of the year around the world including Edinburgh, Berlin, Paris and New York.’

Hamish has travelled with them documenting their amazing work and achievements.

‘The opportunities I’ve had – they have taken me all over the world to document these performing artists.’

Carnival cinema is where it all comes together and Hamish is offering everyone the chance to get behind the curtain and look at some of the amazing people in this performing community.

The Brunswick picture house will be hosting an evening of short form videos and docos of Hamish’s work giving you snippets, tales and secrets from his immense archives, with lots of never-before-seen footage. This will be followed by a Q & A session with Hamish and special guests.

The film night at the Brunswick picture house is a chance to give people an idea of the world I’ve been in,’ continued Hamish.

‘It is about taking you behind the curtain and letting you see how these artists work.

‘From growing up with these people it meant that there was the intimacy and trust. I could get material and stories that a person coming into this environment from the outside just couldn’t get.’

Film night 

The night will also launch the next phase of Carnival Cinema – an online ‘Arts & Culture Magazine with a circus bent’ that will come online on Friday. It will provide a range of stories featuring musicians, artists, makers and creators both as stories and photo essays.

‘I have the trust of these relationships so that I can provide truer and deeper stories.’

Hamish already has an international following for his youtube channel and the last piece that Hamish put on his Carnival Cinema facebook page had 350,000 visitors within three days.

‘Through it being online I get to promote my friends and show them to an international audience. Everyone wins.’

If you want to find out more head down to the Brunswick picture house this Friday at 7pm and enjoy the show.

You can pick up a ticket here.

Check out Hamish’s show reel here.


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